PTSD is a form of anxiety disorder that happens after a person experiences a traumatic event and often have little support immediately following it. It can be a single incident or multiple incidents that occurred even decades ago. When this happens our body is in a state of shock that never really goes away until it is healed thoroughly. Nightmares, anxiety, and anger are common. Sleep becomes difficult as a person can feel like they can just not get enough sleep no matter how many hours they get, or they are unable to get hardly any hours when they try. Flashbacks happen where the person feels like they are re-living the original event. This goes way beyond simply recalling something from memory.
The vast majority of people do not get help with it and suffer needlessly. When a person has undergone a lot of trauma there can be a feeling of “I can’t” that is quietly playing in their mind. Even if it’s a simple task such as leaving the house to run an errand. If there is a lot of shame, which is common, the idea of getting help sounds like a nightmare unto itself. The problem is it can feel like simply staying home and trying to tough it out feels like a great idea. It isn’t.
What’s going there is that a person’s fight/flight/freeze response in the brain is actively trying to get away from the problem so we can feel safe and heal. Sometimes the desire is to find something to attack in an effort to neutralize a threat that may or may not be there, yet our body is screaming at us that there is something dangerous and we must protect ourselves. This is where the anger aspect shows up. When we sleep, our body is trying to rejuvenate and process things but it is unable to do so when there are unresolved traumas.
Going to therapy then can feel like it takes everything we got. When we hit a rock bottom moment or have a loved one set us up to get some help, that’s about when most people make the call. That’s the easier part, yet it is also not at all easy. The next step is to actually go to the appointment and follow up. Unfortunately PTSD is not going to be healed in only a few attempts. It is critical to stick with it and fight the “I can’t do this” voice. Otherwise you will just feel defeated again, except now a person can say, “I tried it and it didn’t work!” and then feel defeated all over again and feel even worse. This becomes dangerous when a person expects defeat. There is no denying that going to therapy is an act of courage. With all the stigma around mental illness, and the fear of appearing weak or broken beyond repair, it’s no wonder people don’t want to get help.
What I can tell you is this, of all the people I’ve worked with that found the right therapeutic fit, stick with it, and honestly try, the pain does fade. You have to find the small spark within that is sick and tried of being sick and tried of it and wants to heal. Sometimes that spark is really small, but it’s usually there. PTSD can feel very isolating but it affects others well beyond just ourselves. Sometimes one just has to say, what is this doing to my loved ones? If you can’t heal for you, could you do it for them?